* Investment will help catch up with Swedish wind advances
* Grid to build links between new farms
* Final investment decisions expected 2015
OSLO, Aug 26 Norway's oil and energy ministry
said on Monday it has granted licences to build eight wind power
farms with a combined 1,300-megawatt capacity in a major boost
for wind power development in the Nordic country.
The ministry said investment into newly licensed wind farms
was expected to come to around 20 billion crowns ($3.32
billion), one of the largest investments ever on its mainland.
Norway gets most of electricity from hydro power plants and
has 775 MW of installed wind power, far less than neighbouring
Sweden, even though it enjoys stronger winds blowing from the
The two countries launch a market-based renewable support
scheme last year, aiming to increase production from such
sources as wind, small hydro, bio and solar by 26.4
terwatt-hours (TWh) per year by end-2020.
The eight newly approved projects in Norway could contribute
up to 3.7 TWh to this goal, the ministry said.
Licenses were issued to Norwegian companies SAE Vind DA,
Sarepta Energi AS and Zephyr AS, which counts Denmark's Dong
Energy as a stakeholder, to develop wind power farms around the
city of Trondheim, an area with a power deficit.
The oil and energy ministry has also issued a license to
state-owned transmission grid operator Statnett to build a new
420 kV power line to connect the wind farms.
"Obviously it's a huge project to undertake. We are talking
about 450 turbines and about 200 kilometres of high-voltage
lines to be built," Andreas Thon Aasheim at the Norwegian wind
power association NORWEA told Reuters.
Sarepta Energi AS, which is owned by power companies
TroenderEnergi and NTE, said it planned to invest up to 10
billion crowns into what it called the largest onshore wind farm
development in northern Europe.
Companies were expected to make the final investment
decisions in 2015, and the first wind turbines in the area
should be up and running in 2018, said Aasheim.
Long licensing procedures, lack of power lines and higher
costs were partly blamed for slower wind power development in
Norway compared to Sweden, which had 3,607 MW of installed wind
capacities by end-2012 generating 7.2 TWh.
Including the newly licensed projects and the existing
plants, Norway was expected to have up to 3,000 MW of wind power
by end-2020, Aasheim said.
($1 = 6.0197 Norwegian crowns)
(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by William Hardy)